The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC), created in 2005 to deal with the impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, may have its days numbered.
The provincial government announced earlier this year it will not renew funding for OBAC after March 2017.
But according to Sharon Tower, OBAC’s executive director, OBAC still has plenty of work to do. With the provincial annual allowable cut expected to decline by more than 13 million cubic metres per year over the next decade, Tower said the work of the organization has perhaps never been more vital.
The coalition involves 14 local government leaders who have worked together to find a “strong and unified voice” for the areas most impacted by the mountain pine beetle outbreak, she explained. The coalition has been developing regional strategies and priorities and communicating them to the provincial government. Tower said no other organization has a mandate to provide this kind of regional leadership.
“The past 10 years have shown how important it is for local governments to work together as a region; we need to continue this collaborative approach,” she said. “We will need to evolve to ensure we continue to be relevant and add value to the region.”
In addition to providing a blueprint for action and a forum for regional leadership, Tower said OBAC has supported and enabled numerous initiatives in the region, including the midterm timber supply review, B.C. timber sales review, agricultural developments and the rail review.
B.C. minister of jobs Shirley Bond told Lakes District News her ministry recognizes the great work OBAC has done in the past decade.
“They should be proud of their achievements,” she said.
However, Bond says her ministry is not considering providing addition funding to OBAC at this time.
“The creation of OBAC was a bold and innovative initiative to respond to and mitigate the impacts of the beetle infestation,” she said. “The coalition has received $3 million from the province with additional funds from the federal government.”
Bond said the province continues to move forward on initiatives and supports to mitigate the impacts of the mountain pine beetle infestation, including the $75 million rural dividend fund and the $85 million to establish the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. to rehabilitate areas impacted by mountain pine beetle.
Tower said OBAC will continue to seek other sources of funding.